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1 Corinthians 6:1-11: Brothers at Court? Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 27 September 2015

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Americans are obsessed with defending their rights. So many of the issues that are prevalent right now in our country and our government deal with the rights of individuals. Who has the right to marry? Who has the right to life? Who has the right to be a citizen? The truth is, we should all be thankful for the rights that we do enjoy as Americans, and there is a responsibility that we have to preserve and fight for rights when justice demands it. Yet, as Christians, we have to keep in mind another important truth about our rights: we have laid them down at the foot of the cross. Our rights belong to King Jesus and we use them in the service of His Kingdom. Following a Savior who freely gave His life away at the cross to save sinners like us will have certain implications on our lives and our rights. We belong to Him and He has commanded us to lay down our lives for one another. Taking up our cross means laying down our rights.

Some in the Corinthian community were not quite ready to give up their rights out of love for one another. In fact, they were willing to take each other to court to defend their rights. Look at verse 1 of our text this morning. Remember Paul’s argument up to this point. The Corinthians were claiming to have already arrived spiritually (4:8ff). Yet, Paul has called them out for tolerating sexual immorality in their community (ch. 5). Now, he is calling them out again for going to court with one another. His language in verse 1 is strong. The sentence begins with the word translated ‘dare’ in the ESV. He is shocked that a brother in Christ would dare take another brother to secular court. How could this be happening in a Christian community? Paul goes on to ask several questions that should be considered before taking a fellow believer to court. Let’s consider these questions together this morning and how they inform our relationships to one another.

Are you not to judge the world (v. 2-4)?

Paul begins with a question that moves from the greater to the lesser. Look at verses 2-4. The point that he is making is straightforward: If you are going to judge the world and angels on the last Day (the greater), then surely you can make a judgement between brothers in this life (the lesser). Paul does not understand why these believers cannot handle this issue without taking it to unbelievers in the courts.

Of course, our struggle is trying to figure out what he means by saying that believers will judge the world and angels. What does Paul mean by this? He is building on the ideas that Jesus expresses in passages like Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:28, where he tells the disciples that they will sit on thrones with Him judging the twelve tribes of Israel. We also see the idea of believers sitting on thrones and ruling over the nations in the book of Revelation (see 2:26-27, 3:21, and 20:4). We are not given the details of what this means exactly or what it will look like in the age to come. But Paul uses the truth that one Day believers will judge the world and angels to drive home the point that these believers should be able to settle grievances between brothers in this world. Why would they take a brother to secular court if they are going to judge the world?

Are you not wise enough (v. 5-6)?

As we have already seen in this letter, knowledge and wisdom were important to the Corinthians. So Paul puts another question to them in verses 5-6. Look at those with me. If they claim to be so wise, then how can they not deal with this situation between brothers. Surely they can use their great wisdom to make a fair and just decision. The truth is, as Paul will go on to point out, as believers we should be wise enough to settle such matters. Unlike secular judges at times, we should be above corruption and bribery. As those who will judge on the final Day, we should be able to see clearly and not be distracted by the stuff of earth. Because the message of the cross has set us free from selfishness and pettiness, we should be able to restore peace between brothers. The wisdom of the cross should enable us to make sound judgments. Are we not wise enough to settle such disputes?

Are you not willing to suffer wrong (v. 7)?

Paul gets to the heart of the issue in verse 7. Look at that with me. The issue is not who is right or who is wrong in this dispute. The problem is that brothers would let such a disagreement divide them in the first place. Who cares who wins the case? If brother is taking brother to court, then the community of faith loses. If two believers cannot settle their differences without appearing before unbelievers, then the problem runs deeper than the issue that has brought them to court. No matter who wins, everyone loses.

So what is the solution? How is this avoided? Paul asks some pointed questions: Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? Rather than take your brother to court and do damage to the witness of the Church, wouldn’t it just be better to suffer wrong? The short answer for us is often: ‘Absolutely not!’ That American spirit rises up in us and we begin to demand our rights. We reason: ‘Surely the Lord would not want us to suffer wrong. Surely he would not want us to be defrauded?’ We just cannot imagine that we should wrong when we are perhaps in the right. That is unfair and unjust.

It is like a King dying for His subjects. Or better, a King being put to death by His rebellious subjects. It is like an owner of a field sending His Son to reap the harvest and the farmers refusing to give it and killing Him instead. It is like the Creator becoming a man, living an absolutely perfect life, being unjustly tried, and hung naked on a cross by His own creations. Paul is once again telling us to be like Jesus. Our Savior suffered wrong and was defrauded when He died for us at Calvary. He did not deserve such treatment. He did not deserve to be ridiculed and spit upon. He did not deserve a crown of thorns and a spear in His side. Yet, He endured it all to save us from our sins. He willingly took the punishment that we deserved so that we could be reconciled to the Father through repentance and faith.

Do we really believe in that Savior? Do we really believe that Jesus endured such unjust treatment for us? If so, then we will gladly suffer wrong for the good of His Bride. We will rather be defrauded than to hurt the witness of our community of faith. We will swallow our pride because Jesus drank down the cup of God’s wrath against our sin. Even if we are right and our brother is wrong, we will lay down our rights for the sake of our crucified King. Are we not willing to suffer wrong in light of Him?

Are you not washed in the blood of Christ (v.9-11)?

All of this leads to the big question: are we really following after Jesus? If we are taking our brother to court, then have we really been changed by the gospel of grace? Paul notes that their actions are not consistent with being a follower of Christ. Look at verse 8. Instead of suffering wrong and being defrauded, they are actually the ones doing the wrong and the defrauding, even against their own brother. This is problematic because those who make a practice out of such wrong doing will not inherit the Kingdom. Look at verse 9a. The term translated ‘unrighteous’ in the ESV is the same as the word for ‘wrong’ in verse 8. Thus, I like the footnoted translation better: Do you not know that wrong doers will not inherit the kingdom of God? This is Paul’s struggle with the Corinthian Church. Instead of behaving like followers of Christ, they look too much like the world around them, too much like who they used to be. They are behaving like wrong doers in taking one another to court.

Paul goes on and gives a list of wrong doing in verses 9b-10. Look at those with me. Primarily, Paul deals with sins pertaining to sex and money in this list, possibly since the lawsuit was about money and he is about to address sexual sin in verses 12-20. Although the list is straightforward, there is controversy around what Paul means at the end of verse 9: nor men who practice homosexuality. Some scholars have concluded that Paul is only condemning a particular type of homosexuality due to the words that he uses, but such a conclusion is difficult to prove. Rather, it seems that he is simply condemning both parties involved in a homosexual act (see footnote in ESV). Although many want to conclude that homosexuality is not condemned in the Bible, this passage, along with Romans 1:26-27, state the opposite. For Paul, homosexuality is a sexual sin just like adultery or sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage). The Bible clearly condemns these actions as sin and so we must as well.

But there is hope for those who struggle with sexual sins. And there is hope for those who struggle with greed and idolatry and drunkenness. How do I know? Look at verse 11. There were those in Corinth who were sexually immoral and idolaters and committing homosexual acts and thieves and drunkards who had been changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. When they heard the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross for their sins, they gave up their sin through the power of the Spirit and became new creatures. They were washed and sanctified and justified through faith in Jesus. The idea that sinners cannot be changed is foreign to the Bible. All those who struggle with sexual sin can be saved. All those who struggle with sin in regards to money can be saved. Through repentance and faith in Jesus we can no longer be who we used to be. For those who were continuing to wrong each other by taking brothers to court Paul asks: Have you not been washed by the blood?

The problem in Corinth is that they did not love each other like they should. Tolerating sexual sin is unloving so Paul told them to remove the man who was sleeping with his father’s wife (ch. 5). Tolerating brothers who take each other to court is unloving as well. Essentially what Paul is saying is this: ‘If you guys truly have repented and believed that Jesus paid for your sins at the cross, then why are you continuing to walk in sin toward one another? Why not be like Christ and fight against your sin and truly lay down your lives for each other?’ We must hear and respond to these questions as well. We have given our lives to Christ. We have laid down our rights at His cross. May we be committed to loving each other as He has loved us. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 07 October 2015 )

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